Syria's deputy foreign minister Faisal Mekdad has told the U.N. Human Rights Council that his nation is under attack from criminals who have killed 1,100 citizens with arms supplied by neighboring countries.

Mekdad's view that President Bashar Assad's regime is "the target of terrorist threats," and is undermined by reports from Western journalists opened a polarized examination Friday of Syria's record by the U.N.'s top human rights body, part of its mandatory review of all member nations.

"There is nothing that we seek to hide or are ashamed of," Mekdad said.

"The culture of human rights is a disease," he added. "We have to take into consideration that the conduct of some of those developed countries is not honorable in the area of human rights."

Syria's report to the council begins by asserting that the nation "has been subjected to a series of criminal attacks" that have been "accompanied by an unprecedented media campaign of lies and allegations."

But the U.N. human rights office estimates President Bashar Assad's crackdown against protesters seeking change has claimed more than 2,900 lives.

A final report on Syria's record is to be adopted by the Human Rights Council next week.

Russia, China, Venezuela and Zimbabwe provided strong backing for Syria on Friday, saying it must be protected against foreign interference.

"Unfortunately, the opposition is not showing an interest in peaceful dialogue and is using arms against the government," Russian Ambassador Valery Loshchinin said.

"We are opposed to any politicization of human rights issues," said China's Ambassador He Yafei. "All parties in Syria must exercise maximum restraint."

But nations including the United States, France and Brazil condemned Assad's crackdown against civilians seeking change.

"The Syrian government responded to peaceful protests by killing over 2,900 civilians in the past seven months in military and security operations, using tanks and heavy weapons," U.S. Ambassador Betty King said.

"A government that fails to respect the will of its people, denies the fundamental rights of its citizens, and chooses to rule through terror and intimidation, cannot be considered legitimate and must step aside immediately," she said.

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